Egyptian Christians, Muslims share Ramadan meals despite Islamist violence

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CAIRO (Reuters) – In a display of communal solidarity defying the sectarian violence of Islamist militants, Egyptian Christians in Cairo organize daily meals for Muslim neighbors who must fast from dawn to dusk during their holy month of Ramadan.

Such intercommunal meals are held every year in Egypt, whose Copts are the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they took on more resonance this year after a spate of Islamic State attacks on Copts meant to stoke sectarian divisions.

Dawoud Riyad, a middle-aged Christian man, set up tables in a street near his Cairo home last week, serving free home-cooked meals to hungry passersby when it was time for them to break their fast for the Iftar evening meal.

“They invited me and my kids, and I was surprised. They laid the table out on the street with no difference between sheikhs, Christians or Muslims – they pulled everyone to the table to break their fast,” said Tarek Ali, a Muslim resident.

Several Christian families in Riyad’s area pitch in daily to provide the food and drink in what he calls an effort to unite people of different faiths during a holy time of year. Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 92 million people.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BUSINESS INSIDER 

Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable

76535Twelve seconds of silence is an awkward eternity on television. Amr Adeeb, perhaps the most prominent talk show host in Egypt, leaned forward as he searched for a response.

“The Copts of Egypt … are made of … steel!” he finally uttered.

Moments earlier, Adeeb was watching a colleague in a simple home in Alexandria speak with the widow of Naseem Faheem, the guard at St. Mark’s Cathedral in the seaside Mediterranean city.

On Palm Sunday, the guard had redirected a suicide bomber through the perimeter metal detector, where the terrorist detonated. Likely the first to die in the blast, Faheem saved the lives of dozens inside the church.

“I’m not angry at the one who did this,” said his wife, children by her side. “I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you.’

“‘You put my husband in a place I couldn’t have dreamed of.’”

Stunned, Adeeb stammered about Copts bearing atrocities over hundreds of years, but couldn’t escape the central scandal.

“How great is this forgiveness you have!” his voice cracked. “If it were my father, I could never say this. But this is their faith and religious conviction.”

Millions marveled with him across the airwaves of Egypt.

So also did millions of Copts, recently rediscovering their ancient heritage, according to Ramez Atallah, president of the Bible Society of Egypt which subtitled and recirculated the satellite TV clip.

“In the history and culture of the Copts, there is much taught about martyrdom,” he told CT. “But until Libya, it was only in the textbooks—though deeply ingrained.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY 

Egypt’s Christian minority in sombre mood for Easter holiday

Ragaay prays and lights a candle in front of a wooden figure of Jesus in her home at the Cairo suburb of MaadiMembers of Egypt’s Christian minority flocked to church on Friday but two church bomb attacks on Palm Sunday that killed 45 people have left many in a sombre mood over Easter.

Worshippers from the nearly 2,000-year-old Coptic Christian community attended church services, but the holiday to mark the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ was being observed in subdued fashion, according to church officials.

In the city of Alexandria, Christians congregated at Saint Mark’s Cathedral, historic seat of the Coptic Pope, to attend Good Friday prayers. Worshippers passed through a metal detector at the building entrance, where one of the bombs went off.

Rafiq Bishry, head of the church’s organizational committee, said he was surprised that so many people had come.

“We expected that people would be too scared to attend prayers but there was no need for our expectations because there are a lot of people here,” he told Reuters Television.

“This is a clear message to the whole world that we are not afraid,” he said.

Last Sunday’s attacks in Alexandria and the city of Tanta were claimed by Islamic State, which has been waging an insurgency against soldiers and police in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

The group has now stepped up assaults on Christians and warned of more attacks to come. It has claimed to have killed 80 people in three church bombings since December.

Maha Ragaay, a Coptic Christian teacher who lives in Cairo, said she had avoided watching television on Palm Sunday, afraid of seeing the bloody images broadcast after the bombings.

FULL ARTICLE FROM REUTERS

Explosions rock 2 Egyptian churches, killing dozens and injuring scores more

05899031A reminder why the development of positive inter-religious relationships is so crucial as a counter to the violence that finds too easy justification with the radical fringe. 

 Two bombs rocked churches packed with worshippers in the Egyptian cities of Tanta and Alexandria on Sunday, killing at least 36 and injuring scores more. The assaults were the latest in a spate of attacks targeting Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority and come ahead of a scheduled visit by Pope Francis to Egypt.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for both bombings through the Amaq news agency, which is affiliated with the Islamist militant group. Egypt’s Christian minority, who make roughly 10 percent of the population, have increasingly been targeted by Islamist extremists.

The first blast in Tanta, 80 miles north of the capital, Cairo, unfolded around 9.30 a.m., during a Palm Sunday service at St. George’s Church. The bomb, police said, was planted in the pews of the church.

Less than three hours later, a second blast erupted near Saint Mark’s Church in the northern city of Alexandria. The head of Egypt’s Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, was presiding over the Palm Sunday Mass at the church, and his fate remained unknown.

The Health Ministry says 36 people have been killed in the attacks, 25 in Tanta and 11 in Alexandria, but the death toll is widely expected to rise.

Both churches were packed for Palm Sunday services. After the attack in Tanta, photos appeared on social media, showing bloodstained walls and shattered wooden pews. Many of the dead were believed to be children, according to initial local media reports.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Egyptian priest praises Muslim support of threatened Christians

EGYPT CHRISTIANS SINAIOXFORD, England – A spokesman for Egypt’s Catholic Church praised local Muslims for helping embattled Christians after a series of Islamic State attacks in Sinai.

Father Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Coptic Catholic Church, said Christians must differentiate between ordinary Muslims and extremists.

“Ordinary Muslims are kind and try to help however they can –  they’re often first on the scene, rescuing the injured and taking them to hospitals,” he told Catholic News Service March 3, as Christians continued to flee Egypt’s North Sinai region.

Greiche said the attacks had affected only Coptic Orthodox Christians, but added that Catholic churches and schools in Ismailia had offered shelter to Orthodox families with help from Caritas.

Greiche said Islamic State militants were now “strongly entrenched” in North Sinai, having been allowed by the Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood organizations to use tunnels from the Gaza Strip.

He added that civilians were better off not staying in the surrounding military zone, which was now “under attack all the time,” but said he believed the Egyptian authorities were committed to protecting Christians against the Islamist insurgency.

“You can never do enough against jihadist and terrorist attacks, which come, like any criminal acts, at a time no one can foresee,” the priest said. “But while no country can be fully secure, I think there’s will on government side to act decisively against these constant attempts to destabilize Egypt.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUX 

‘I spent the night at my Muslim friends”: Christians flee Islamic State in Sinai

1488171939180Ismailia, Egypt: Some fled with little more than the clothes they were wearing, terrified that the militants of Islamic State would come for them next.

For a fourth day on Sunday, Coptic Christians – one of Egypt’s most vulnerable minorities – sought safe haven after a series of sectarian killings in and near the town of Arish, in Egypt’s rugged Sinai Peninsula.

Some 95 families have arrived in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, 120 kilometres east of Cairo, church officials said. Frightened, hungry and tired, they are being sheltered in private homes and – belatedly – at government accommodation.

“There were many killings and threats of further violence,” said Kirollos Ibrahim, a priest at the Coptic Church of Ismailia, which has aided the displaced. “God has helped us, and we are finding brothers and sisters to stand by us.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD 

Muslims condemn ‘evil attacks’ which killed 24 Christians on the Coptic Church in Egypt

ramzy-jpg-galleryMUSLIMS in Oxford have condemned the ‘evil attacks’ on the Coptic Church in Egypt which killed 25 people.

Dr Hojjat Ramzy, director of Oxford Islamic information centre, gave his ‘sincere condolences’ on behalf of Muslim community of the city to the families affected.

Egyptians are holding prayers for the 24 Christians killed at a church next to main Coptic cathedral in Cairo.

The bomb went off during Sunday Mass at a chapel adjacent to St Mark’s Cathedral in the capital. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Today, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi identified the bomber as 22-year-old Mahmoud Shafiq Mohammed Mustafa.

He said three men and a woman had been arrested in connection with the attack.

The president spoke after Health Ministry officials revised down the number of victims to 24, suggesting that the 25th body belonged to the bomber.

Dr Ramzy told the Oxford Mail: “I believe this was an evil act of people who have no respect for sanctity of life.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE OXFORD MAIL